Example 1 – Enterprise Awakening to Sociality (TTST)

The first example is a hypothetical company that provides after market technical support for some complex electronic products. This company, which we will call TeleTechie Support Team (TTST), can be seen as a high-function technical help desk, where knowledge of problems and their remedies is at a premium.
Salient Business Architecture

Organization structures are central to TTST. Technicians are organized around product support areas, and there is a hierarchical, command and control management structure. The idea of communities of practice is a recent insight for this company. A limited form of decision-making architecture is included in TTST’s problem and fix database, which helps direct problems to the appropriate technician.

The institutional architecture is fairly simple for TTST. It is a privately held corporation that provides transactional services on a pay per use basis. The company is opening up the evaluation arena to peer review and reputation management to supplement simple call volume metrics.

In these early stages of deliberate enterprise sociality TTST does not have a strong focus on cultural aspects of their business architecture. TTST is starting to understand the importance of community boundaries and boundary objects, so this architectural viewpoint is just beginning to emerge. Direct support for individual and group branding is also beginning to emerge, but only informally.

Salient Sociable Technology Architecture

TTST needs persistence support, in the form of database storage and retrieval for the problem and fix history. Search and limited tagging are provided, but not ontologies, or advanced text analytics. Limited graphical capability in the form of still images is provided as part of the new profile application. Versioning is also important for problem history and threaded comments on fix records.

TTST is beginning to see the value ofsome form of reputation management capability based on the supporting functions of opinion, rating, ranking, and rewards. This has not been explicitly documented in their enterprise architecture yet.

The TTST ICT architecture has some openness to integration, but the application suite is homegrown and not standards-based beyond the basic functionality of web technology. TTST is not very far along in their thinking about possible use of virtual worlds (VW) technology.

Structural Coupling

TTST has a well-developed database of problems and known fixes, which is updated and used continuously by the professional technicians. They decided to introduce a simple social application of ICT to supplement the problem database. The idea was to add product unit bulletin boards and a photo and comment profile page, with links to a basic instant messaging (IM) system. The profile information was meant to personalize the projection of self of each technician, and IM was intended to allow technicians to reach out to each other in the course of resolving problems. The idea was that teaming within product lines would support faster and better problem resolution. This also led to big debate about whether there should be partitioning of IM access by group, including maybe real-time group IM chat.

A disaster threatened to occur because the design and deployment had overlooked the rough-hewn, locker room oriented aspect of the culture. Comments that had been limited to the lunchrooms and e-mail became public on profiles and bulletin boards. Old-fashioned flame wars broke out and some people took offense at the harsh barbs that erupted. Management considered scrapping the system in the face of bitter employee complaints, but instead did some belated but effective cultural redesign. They made it clear that the company wanted to foster a culture of technical excellence and reputation, but that workplace discrimination and harassment standards applied in the arena of sociable ICT.